What I want to address is the power of those who don’t produce new content, but those who react to it. It’s as if there’s a new type of bully. I call them the social media bully. It’s the person who gives their power away to someone else to make them feel a certain way in one sentence, one photo, or one post. Then they try to take their power back through lashing out at that person for “making” them feel bad. I don’t believe they always know they are bullying, but the fact is they are.
Recently, there was a photo going around. I’m sure many of you have seen it. It was a photo of a mom, Maria Kang, and her three very young children. In the photo, she looks physically strong and fit, baring her washboard abs, with the caption “What’s your excuse?” Now having been around personal trainers before, this seemed to be a typical type of message that I have heard from them. I came to my own conclusion that she was one. In fact, she was a trainer for three years. While that type of one-liner message doesn’t resonate with me, it does work with some people as a motivator by getting them to stop and think. It’s meant to get your attention, make you think and be honest with yourself. However, this was not the reaction a lot of people had after the photo was shared. It became viral whether Maria intended for it to or not.
I’m not sure how many of the people who were having reactions visited Maria’s site, and I quickly realized it didn’t matter to them. While someone could get something positive and self-motivating from her, many people had such a strong reaction to the original photo and caption that they just had to get their feelings out about it. Those feelings varied widely! Maria has been called inspirational, mean, powerful, judgmental, beautiful, a bad mother… among other things. The one that bothered me the most was that she was called a bully! … Bully?? Really?
If you type “bully definition” into Google, this is what you get:
Maybe if you stopped bullying her, judging her, and making assumptions about her, you could find a positive message and maybe some inspiration from her. If not, maybe you should just leave her be because everything I have seen is nothing short of hypocritical.
Do people have so little self-control that they have to react strongly to a message without taking the time to find out the facts behind it? Are they so self-centered that they look for ways of being insulted when the person wasn’t even talking to them personally? Do they care so little about others that they don’t think about whether their reaction is appropriate and kind before they decide to share it? I have been thinking about this and it seems to me that it’s much deeper than that.
Here’s an analogy I thought might help – When you have an awful dream that really, really bothers you, doesn’t it make you feel better to talk about it, have someone listen to you, and even though the dream wasn’t real, have someone who is listening be able to empathize with your traumatized feelings about it?
The truth is this – If you don’t have a positive, motivating feeling when you see her photo and caption, it’s not for you! It’s really as simple as that. What you are feeling right now isn’t caused by her. It is caused by you. It’s your dream. It’s your perception. And it’s not her responsibility to walk on glass so she doesn’t get bullied. I don’t see how she was fat shaming in any way, shape or form. In fact, she is passionate about being healthy after many years of not being so.
With all of that said…
The level of struggle, hurt, ridicule, and even guilt I have seen in people’s reactions makes me realize that what Maria is about doesn’t matter whatsoever. What matters is that each of the people who reacted negatively to her photo desperately wants to be heard. They want their struggles to be acknowledged. They won’t be ready to change their perspectives until they feel like they have a right to feel the way they do. Sometimes their hurt is revealed when they lash out at a target in the same way they feel like they have been treated in the past. They don’t know how else to process their feelings because they feel like they have been oppressed or unheard so they blame someone else for how they feel instead of taking ownership of their feelings. They give away their power to be happy to someone else. It’s too painful for them to be left with feelings that their experiences have left them with, and sometimes other people have directly created in the past. They don’t know what to do with those feelings so they unknowingly continue the cycle.
While I understand it’s not fair to be left dealing with those feelings you most likely didn’t create in the first place, you have no choice NOT to if you want to be happy. You can’t be happy if you are having negative, hurt reactions to other people who aren’t even a part of your life. All you will do is perpetuate the hurt unless you face it, process it and remove it from your inner life. No one can do that for you. It’s your choice to live in a place of happiness. It’s not other people’s responsibility to create it for you.
I have never had an eating disorder or have had to struggle with my weight. I can’t personally relate to what any of those who have expressed the most hurt and offense have gone through. I have to admit that. What I can relate to is how hurt they feel. How rejected they feel. How they have been subjected to ridicule. How they look around at what is put in their face as “normal” and how they don’t feel like they are in the club. Those are universal human feelings. However, do you have a right to make someone else feel as bad as you do? Your reactions have nothing to do with this stranger named Maria. They are solely about your experiences. While you have every right to feel the way you do, and you are entitled to, what you do have to realize is that you are perpetuating it by making others responsible for it when those feelings bubble up. When you put it on someone else forcefully and judgmentally, that is bullying.
My message today is to stop and think before you react to something you see online. When you feel a reaction, control yourself and figure out why you have those feelings. Chances are they have nothing to do with anything created here and now. Those feelings were already there, just waiting for you to deal with them so you can move on. While it may make you feel better to vent your feelings in the moment, realize that the stranger on the other end has no idea where you are coming from because they don’t know you and they don’t deserve to be called names, they don’t deserve to be judged and they don’t deserve to be treated badly.
My hope that after all is said and done, Maria isn’t bullied into silence and that she is allowed to keep her work going with those who need her. She wouldn’t be successful if she wasn’t helping someone. If that someone isn’t you, is there any point in being offended by her? I think not.
As a Parent Coach and Mentor, my passion lies in empowering parents to make the best decisions they can for their children and their families as a whole. As a well-trained coach, I can be your facilitator and accountability partner for long-lasting, meaningful change that has a permanent, positive impact for your family. By focusing on the values that you hold most important in your life, I can help you create and maintain the type of parenting relationship you want to have with your children, now and into their adulthood.
I am a homeschooling mom of four children in Massachusetts. I am also the author of a book called The Herbal Beverage Book, which can be found on amazon. When not coaching, writing or spending time with the family, I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki films, new and classic Dr. Who episodes, anything related to American history and a great glass of mead.
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This blog is a collection of thoughts, articles and perspectives I have at any one time. While I am pretty consistent in my beliefs, life changes and evolves along with experiences. You may feel a connection with me through my writing yet I never want any of my readers to misunderstand that the connection you feel is with a perspective I have shared and not me as a person. I am continually humbled that I am able to connect with my readers, and I hope to continue to be able to for many years to come, but it doesn't make us connected in any way beyond this. If you connect with what I write and know me as an acquaintance, this in no way reflects that I have any knowledge of you, your situation in life or that I am writing with you in mind. It is merely that I have shared a human experience that most likely very many others have had has well. This also goes for anything I post on my Twitter account, Facebook Page and Facebook personal page. I wanted to make this disclaimer as clear as possible so you know that any misunderstanding you choose to have is not my responsibility.